CHIBA – Kenya, led by Japan-based runners, dominated the field at the Chiba international ekiden road relay to win both the men’s and women’s races on Wednesday.
The Kenyan women’s team, which featured Olympic and world silver medalist Catherine Ndereba, led from start to finish to claim its second victory and first in 14 years after covering the six-leg, 42.195-kilometer race in 2 hours, 13 minutes, 33 seconds.
Ethiopia, which had its winning streak snapped at three years, finished second in 2:14:16 and Russia came third in 2:14:48.
Host Japan was kept out of contention throughout the race and settled for fourth in 2:16:43.
Three of the six Kenyan runners won their legs, including Philes Ongori in the opening leg and Eveline Wambui in the second leg, while Ndereba clocked the third fastest time in the 10-kilometer fourth leg.
Women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe overtook five runners in the 10-km second leg to lift Britain briefly to fourth. She was second to Wambui in her leg while Britain faded later on and finished the race in seventh in 2:03:23.
“I struggled in the second half (of the leg). But coming from illness, it was good,” said Radcliff, who suffered bronchitis after winning the world marathon title in Helsinki in August.
In the men’s race, Martin Mathathi moved in front past Ethiopian Abebe Dinkesa and Kenya never looked back to cross the finish line with a world record time of 1:57:06, with three of its six runners recording the fastest times in their legs.
It was the first victory in eight years for the Kenyan men in the annual race.
Japan came second with a national-record 1:58:58, paced by Yuki Sato, who was the second fastest in the most competitive second leg.
Anchor Takanobu Otsubo held off Josh Moen of the United States, which finished third in 1:59:08. Ethiopia was fourth in 1:59:53 after winning for three consecutive years.
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